Okay so I know I promised you more blog posts for 2017 but you know how life gets in the way, and when it hasn’t I’ve been using my spare time working on my book which is coming along swimmingly (I’m around the halfway mark now and on to the home stretch). However I do want to keep my word and update you guys a bit more regularly with different posts be it about my writing, what I’ve been up to, etc.
So I thought we’d start off with a writing-related post and I’ll try to answer two questions that I (presumably along with every other writer) get asked all the time: “Where do you get your ideas from?” and “What is your writing process?”
The truth is I like to think of my brain as a computer that downloads and process the information that’s sent down to it from the cloud. I’d like to be able to say that I set out to write a certain story (be it as a novel, script or screenplay) but more often than not ideas come to me fully formed. Many a time I’ve had the entire plot and all the characters come straight to me and then my mind becomes a new world to explore, with a tale that needs to be told. I’m very fortunate that when I have ideas fully formed in my head, my fingers go on autopilot as they type away at the laptop. It’s almost as if some force is controlling me and I become a vessel that’s channeling the words and putting them on the page.
However, whilst most of the time I’m lucky enough to receive my creative ideas fully formed this doesn’t happen ALL the time. Of course there are occasions where only nuggets of an idea come to me. One of my favourite Writers/Directors David Lynch often compares ideas coming to him like catching fish. He once said:
“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
What Lynch says about ideas is true, the deeper you can go within your own mind, your creativity and your thought processes the better the end result will be. It’s also having the courage to never think or dream too big but instead to embrace the creativity, trust your instincts and allow yourself to go with the flow.
Lynch also talks about the necessity of having a lot of patience too, which I believe to be ESSENTIAL to any good writer. Even though I may often have the plot fully formed in my head, writing is fluid and things can change in the process. Even though the story beats are there, getting the right words can be a task. I’m a big believer in never forcing an idea. For some writers it may help but for me personally, I’ve always found that good ideas will expand and unfold in their own time. I truly believe that an idea that is forced will only result in a work that is mediocre at best. As a result of this there will be some days where I can easily write 2,000 words in one sitting and others where I only write 200; this is because if the right words or plot beats aren’t coming to me then I will put the writing on hold and return to it another time and re-read what I’ve written with fresh eyes and a clear mind which then gives me a renewed focus and creativity to continue writing.
Athletes and sportspeople often talk about how their bodies are a temple that has to be looked after in order to achieve their goals and it’s the same for writers. It’s important to mentally look after yourself, to have the ability to clear your headspace before writing. If I’m not in the mood to write I will never force myself to, if I’m writing and I start flagging then I’ll stop. There’s really no point in writing if you’re mentally fatigued as the end result will only disappoint when you read it back.
As a final point with regards to ideas, many writers often give the advice of “write what you know”, controversially this is something that I myself don’t particularly advocate. I never write things based on myself or my own life because to me that’s a story I’m living, not one that needs to be told. Instead I write the ideas that pop in to my mind or I write the stories that I WANT to tell, something that I as a reader/viewer would enjoy.
As for other parts of my writing process, I like to write somewhere where I won’t be disturbed and I can get “in the zone”. Usually, this space is my bedroom where it’s nice and quiet or alternatively, on the rare occasion in Britain when the sun is shining, outside in the garden. Sometimes I also find it useful to listen to music to help me get me in to the mood of the scene that I’m trying to write. In order to achieve this I usually listen to movie scores rather than songs as they can help create that atmosphere and get the creative wheels turning.
Naturally, as a screenwriter I am quite fond of writing dialogue but writing believable dialogue is something that many writers often struggle with. My solution for this obstacle is simple really: say it out loud. I often find speaking the dialogue out loud after you’ve written it is a trustworthy way of seeing if it’s believable. In fact sometimes, I’ll have conversations between two characters out loud before writing a word; this helps me to get in to the characters’ mindset, think about what they would say and make sure it sounds believable. Admittedly, I’d probably get a few funny looks if I were to do this whilst writing out in public.
Most importantly though, perhaps the best writing advice I can give is to make sure you know your destination. There really is very little point in just sitting down and writing without any kind of idea where you’re going; you wouldn’t hop on a train without knowing where you’re going to and the same logic applies to writing. Yes, writing is fluid and ideas can change, that’s a natural part of the writing process, but to write without knowing your ending runs the risk of meandering plots, undeveloped characters and unresolved story arcs. You might not know every last detail of how your story should end, but you should have a general sense of what the ending will be: where the characters end up, how the story is resolved and what the new equilibrium will be. Once you know this you have something to work towards, yes the journey may (and almost certainly will) change along the way but you have a goal to work towards. In addition, I find it handy (especially working on my novel) keeping a journal full of notes, ideas, possibilities and plot points to make sure I always know where I’m at and to prevent the writing becoming confused and contrived.
The reality of writing is that every writer on the planet approaches it differently and will have a unique process that works for them. What I have shared above is just a brief glimpse in to my creative process, but perhaps for someone out there there’s some good advice to take away. One thing’s for sure, the ability to write, to tell stories and to entertain is a gift and anyone who feels compelled to do so should embrace the call, have fun with it and never give up on their dreams.
I appreciate it's been a while since I last touched base with you all but the truth is 2016 has been a pretty busy and intense year (I'm sure many of you can relate).
So I want to start by saying that things here at benlmaden.com are going to be getting a LOT busier. I'm going to ensure that I post here on my blog at least once a month and I hope you all will join me for the ride.
So what's new with me? So this year I spent some time in Los Angeles which was just amazing, LA is truly my favourite place on Earth as it is the epicentre of entertainment and full of my fellow creative types. Whilst there I had the opportunity to attend the filming of 3 episodes of Lip Sync Battle (Including the upcoming Christmas Special), I saw Kathy Bates receive her star on the Walk of Fame and I took a hike with childhood hero and Mighty Mophin' Power Rangers star David Yost. I was also lucky enough to meet stars such as Mara Wilson (Matilda), Alan Cumming (X-Men 2) and Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi).
Perhaps most importantly though I attended We Have to Go Back: Music from LOST. At the event I had the chance to meet LOST's composer Michael Giacchino, Producers Jeff Pinkner, Drew Goddard and Brian K Vaughn and Executive Producer Carlton Cuse, one of the men who inspired my 14 year old self to pursue writing.
Spending time in LA, taking in the arts and the culture, seeing the sights and meeting people who I've always looked up to and been inspired me was an awesome opportunity for me and made me focus a lot more on my writing.
Also whilst I was out in America I got to spend some time with my incredible friend Jackie G! Now if you don't know who she is be sure to check out my earlier blog post about her. She is such a dear friend to me and each day she inspires me so to spend time together in person out in the states was just perfect.
The big news for me this year though is that I've started a new screenplay (not going to share details just yet) but needless to say it's coming along swimmingly. However what I'm most thrilled about is that I'm also working on a brand new novel and this has got me EXTREMELY excited. Again, not too many details are going to be revealed just yet but it's a genre I'm extremely passionate about and I've currently written over 26.500 words of it (I'm aiming for about 90,000) and it couldn't be going better. The entire book is all planned out and I hoping it gets finished and sent off to agents and publishers next year as I'm so eager to have the opportunity to share this gripping story and the vibrant characters with you all, so fingers crossed!
Of course I'm still busy with Entertainment Zone too! Whilst I have took time off from doing the podcast (finding free time is becoming increasingly difficult), you will always be able to find me at www.youtube.com/benlmaden.
I'll be taking a full look back at the past year in the coming weeks (and what a year it's been, right?!) and going ahead to 2017 I'll be updating my blog with stuff about my writing (my process/ideas/progress/etc.) and also my general musings on everything I'm passionate about (Film/Film/Politics/etc).
So thanks for sticking with me guys and don't forget anyone who is interested in hiring me as a freelance writer can get in touch on the contact page. I promise you 2017 is going to be an exciting year here at benlmaden.com
All the best,
Ben L Maden
Hey guys and gals,
I thought a blog update was long over due and what better way than to reflect on the last year. I've gotta say, for me 2015 has been a rollercoaster of a year and I've learned so much about myself and about life. I've also been to so many remarkable events!
I've been fortunate to meet many of my heroes this year such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael J Fox, Benedict Cumberbatch, Steven Moffat, Sherilyn Fenn and many more. I've attended a number of exciting media events such as London Film and Comic-Con, The Twin Peaks UK Festival, Game of Thrones: The Exhibit and perhaps most exciting of all, I was in the crowd meeting the stars of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the European Premiere at London's Leicester Square.
I've seen some amazing concerts this year too including Elton John, Jessie J, Madonna and Tony Bennet & Lady Gaga (next year I'm fortunate enough to be seeing Adele!).
And what of my own creative endeavours? Well I've dipped in to the world of podcasting, releasing the Entertainment Zone podcast, I've bene making massive progress on one of the two books I'm writing and I'm working on some exciting new screenplays at the moment (I might write a post soon about the ideas process and writing in general). Of course I also continue to host Entertainment Zone on YouTube, but I was also a guest on the Twin Peaks unwrapped podcast this year. Also, me and my little sister have made our own little webseries on YouTube with our dogs called "Sammy and Poppy Adventures". It has a £0 budget and is a bit of fun, but I've gotta say, I'm quite proud of it. We film, direct, edit and do the voice acting all ourselves in just a few short hours a week. I'm glad my sister is as creative as I am.
2015 has been a busy but ultimately rewarding year and I cannot wait for the excitement 2016 will bring. Hope you've all had a very happy holiday season and wish you all a happy new year!
Ben L Maden
Whether it's news about my projects, reviews or my thoughts on anything & everything, this blog will cover it all.